Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Year in the Arts

My Year in the Arts. Not necessarily just 2011 works. Not necessarily the best, because I didn't see and read everything, but the plays, books and movies that I chose to see or read in 2011. All in all, I'm happy with my choices. It was a very good year.

After the jump, theater, books, television and movies.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Repeat Tweets: Sports and Politics and Stuff

Repeat tweets from October-December, 2011:

  • 2011 10 04 - The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey: Map thief's tale padded to book length with historical anecdotes, most lifted from other books. C-
  • 2011 10 05 - Tea Party's choice in GOP primaries is down to this: Romneycare vs In-state tuition for illegals. Hold your nose and pick. #letdown
  • 2011 10 06 - Headline: "Perry Campaign Says Economic Specifics Can Wait." Really? Campaign tanking, all focus on n-word, & his best argument can wait???
  • 2011 10 06 - Headline: "Bachmann: Perry used jobs fund to reward backers." Really? Earth to Bachmann: Perry already sinking. Time to swing aim to Romney.
  • 2011 10 06 - Go Caltech! #1 in the world according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
  • 2011 10 06 - Kasra Persian Restaurant got a score of 82 from RIchardson Health Dept this week. Low end of "Good" but I know they can do better.
  • 2011 10 06 - BBQ beats Shawarma. This week's matchup of Dine Smart Dine Local restaurant health scores: Sonny Bryan 91, Afrah 89.
  • 2011 10 06 - 2010: A-Rod strikes out. 2011: A-Rod strikes out. Last out for the Yankees two years in a row. Rangers face Tigers in ALCS!
  • 2011 10 07 - Did Harry Reid pull the nuclear option in the Senate Thursday night? Well, yes, if by nuclear option you mean...
  • 2011 10 07 - Weekend NFL tip: Count on the Cowboys' Tony Romo to have a mistake-free Sunday this week.
  • 2011 10 07 - Brewers beat Diamondbacks in extra innings! Dare I hope for a Brewers/Rangers World Series?
  • 2011 10 07 - Final. Sunset 6, Lake Highlands 37. #txhsfb

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spring Creek Trail Extension is Open

From 2011 12 Spring Creek Trail

On November 9, 2011, Richardson officially opened the 1.3 mile extension to the Spring Creek Trail. The extension begins at the trailhead at the southeast corner of Renner Rd and US 75 and extends north under Renner Road, then turns west under US 75, then north again to the President George Bush Turnpike, then west to Alma Rd. Slowly, but surely, Richardson is punching those holes in those suffocating freeways that divide up our city. The trails open up a surprising amount of nature in our urban setting to residents smart enough to park their cars and hike or bike to take advantage of it.

More photos can be viewed here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tear Down Central Expressway - cont.

All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created.
Michael Kimmerman, of The New York Times, reviews the cities around the world that are rethinking highways. Madrid is nearly finished burying a highway and restoring a river to create a six mile long park called Madrid Río. Seoul uncovered five miles of a paved-over river to create the Cheonggyecheon recreation area. San Francisco decided to take down the Embarcadero Freeway and not rebuild it after it was heavily damaged in the 1989 earthquake.

After the jump, the outlook close to home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I'm an NFL Team Owner

1997 Packer Share

I hope Santa was as good to everyone as he was to me. He made me an owner of an NFL team. That's right. I was given a share of Green Bay Packers, Inc. That makes me a part owner of the NFL's only non-profit, community-owned franchise.

OK, I know what the cynics are saying. The stock pays no dividends. It can't be sold. It can't even be given away (except to an immediate family member). It doesn't come with rights to buy game tickets. I'm an owner of a piece of paper. What's the big deal?

After the jump, the benefits (and drawbacks) of being an NFL team owner.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Setting the Agenda

Last week, I asked a whole bunch of nosy questions about how agendas for city council meetings are set by the City of Richardson. Bill McCalpin of did his best to answer my questions. He doesn't work for the city; he isn't involved in setting agendas himself; he does have years of experience observing what happens around city hall. I can't say for sure he's right or wrong (if I could, I wouldn't have needed to ask my questions in the first place). But his answers sound plausible.

After the jump, my own understanding of how the process probably works.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ride DART to the Stars Game

We drove to the Arapaho Center DART station. We chose to drive instead of walk. Because we're lazy, not because we didn't want to get our shoes muddy. 'Cause we wouldn't have. Anyway, we got to the train platform just as a train was arriving. It was an Orange Line special event train going direct to Victory Station. Right at the American Airlines Center. Sweet. After the game, another train was pulling into the Victory Station platform just as we walked up. A Red Line train back to Arapaho Center Station. Sweet. DART -- all in all, a great service.

Oh yeah, the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 6-3. Sweet.

Pedestrian Access to DART Stations

I should probably know that when a blogger begins by saying, "Today I vent about ...", that I should quit reading then and there. But how can I resist when the blogger is a member of The Dallas Morning News editorial board (Rodger Jones), and his subject is pedestrian access to the DART stations in Richardson? Jones vents that he can't easily walk from his residence west of US 75 and Renner Rd to the PGBT DART station. There are no sidewalks (yet). I can't tell exactly who Jones blames for this, but it's some combination of the City of Richardson, NTTA and DART.

After the jump, does he have a point?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Moby Dick

Moby Dick

From Moby Dick, or, the whale, by Herman Melville:

Open quote 

I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts."

A few days ago, in my review of The Art of Fielding, I recommended that you also read Moby Dick. That wasn't just a perfunctory compliment to a classic novel everyone thinks they know already, but if they ever read it at all, it was probably way back in high school. No, I really mean it's worth dusting off and reading Moby Dick again. And just to show that I wouldn't ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself, I've been re-reading Moby Dick.

After the jump, my review and excerpts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Questions for is a Richardson-based website with a lofty goal: "countering a pernicious side effect of the Internet -- the creation and mass distribution of statements that have little or no basis in fact." has done a creditable job of fulfilling its mission. Building on that reactive mission, it now is expanding its mission with a more proactive purpose as well:
While RumorCheck got its start in examining and usually refuting the groundless rumors that swirl around, over time, we have seen the need for other types of content here on the RumorCheck website. Some time ago, we added an "Editorial" section for more editorial content that was perhaps not based on any single rumor.

Now RumorCheck is adding what we think will prove to be its most exciting feature: a Question & Answer (Q & A) section in which we will answer general purpose questions about how local government works.
After the jump, a question that has been nagging at me for a long time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Strange Beauty

Strange Beauty

From Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics, by George Johnson:

Open quote 

He is sometimes called the Mendeleev of the twentieth century, for what he provided was no less than a periodic table of the subatomic particles."

Strange Beauty is both a book about particle physics and a biography of a scientist. It suffers from the weaknesses of its two subjects. Particle physics is a mind-numbingly complex field that few understand, and even they are mostly bluffing. And the scientist examined here is not an easy person to like -- brilliant, arrogant, competitive, sarcastic and insecure. Think "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon Cooper without any innocent charm.

After the jump, my review and excerpts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding

From The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach:

Open quote 

To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he'd ever craved since he'd been born. Maybe it wasn't even baseball that he loved but only this idea of perfection, a perfectly simple life in which every move had meaning, and baseball was just the medium through which he could make that happen."

The Art of Fielding is a book about baseball. But that's like saying Moby Dick is a book about fishing. The two books have a lot in common.

After the jump, my review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Look At Single-Member Districts

Bill McCalpin's "" asks the question, "What would happen if Richardson had single member districts?" and comes up with the same answer that "The Wheel" came up with when that question was examined after the last city election in May.

Spoiler alert: the answer is that single member districts probably wouldn't have much effect on election results.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bad News for the RHS Panthers

Panthers? Huh? If you're thinking, "Doesn't he mean RHS Eagles?" the answer is no, I mean Panthers. But you're excused if you read "RHS" and automatically thought "Richardson High School." That's understandable. It would have been even more understandable if I had left off "Panthers" altogether, as one local blogger did.

After the jump, the latest example of the old adage, "Don't believe everything you read."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Are You From?

An American opens a window to Bulgaria:
"От къде си" or "Where are you from?" is one of the most frequent questions I’m asked. You’d think it would be an easy question to answer, but for me it’s not.
Brian, who is serving with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, answers that question on his blog. Because so much of his answer involves family, and Brian's family is also my family, I found it not only interesting but personal. So, where are you from?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sanity Check for School Finance

You have to be really old to remember when the introduction of "new math" caused such a commotion in public education. The biggest change was in how students are taught to approach computation. In the old regime, rote memorization was the order of the day. Mechanical processes ("put down the 4 and carry the 1") were drilled into students' heads. Students graduated knowing what 7x9 equaled, but lacking the ability to apply their skills to the real world.

After the jump, some examples, both fictional and real world.

Monday, December 12, 2011

For Once, Let's Not Fill 'er Up

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. What Richardson needs is more places to store your boats and campers while you're out shopping and dining. And more gas stations next to our DART stops.

I've been a champion of development at US75/PGBT, at Galatyn, at Eastside, at Brick Row, and eventually I hope, at old downtown Main Street and along West Spring Valley Rd. But that doesn't mean I'm all in favor of every cockamamie idea for new development anywhere in Richardson. Really, I do draw the line somewhere.

After the jump, examples of misguided development in Richardson.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crunchy Cons vs Islamist-y Republicans

Today's dialog is prompted, once again, by my favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher. If you know Rod Dreher, you know that if there's one thing that sets him off, it's Muslims. In truth, my dialog is really not much of a dialog. It's more an opportunity for Dreher to show who's boss.

Dreher accuses self-described conservative Andrew Sullivan (Rod, he's one of yours) of going "far, far, far beyond rationality" (emphasis is Dreher's), then accuses me of "hysterical bigotry" (mercifully, no emphasis).

After the jump, the details.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

School Lawsuits. Council Endorsements.

Richardson's school board and Richardson City Council members took divergent positions this week, probably without even being aware of it. The school board sued the State over school finance. Council members endorsed one of the legislators responsible for our school finance mess.

In the current state budget, the RISD received $14.2 million less for this year's operating budget due to state cutbacks in education funding. Next year, RISD's operating budget will take a further $7.5 million hit. This is despite rising enrollments. Schools are adding students but the legislature isn't supplying the resources needed to educate them.

After the jump, what the RISD is doing about it. And how the city council members are making the schools' case more difficult.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Berkner Band to Perform at The Midwest Clinic

From 2011 11 Concerts

The Berkner Symphonic Band I has been selected to perform at The Midwest Clinic in Chicago the week of December 14-17, 2011.

After the jump, the singular honor this is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

From 2011 11 Concerts

The Lake Highlands High School Choral Department, under the direction of Michael O'Hern, performed its annual Holiday Concert Monday, December 5, 2012, in the Lake Highlands High School Auditorium. If you've never heard these talented young voices, you are missing a treat. Their Christmas concert is a traditional highlight of the season's entertainment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sound the Bells!

From 2011 11 Concerts

The Lone Star Wind Orchestra Youth Winds performed a concert Sunday, December 4, 2011, at Plano's St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. The LSWO Youth Winds is made up of 60 of the finest woodwind, brass, and percussion players in grades 9-12 from dozens of schools throughout the D/FW area. The LSWO Youth Winds is under the direction of Dr. Bradley Kent, Director of Fine Arts for the Richardson ISD (RISD).

The LSWO Youth Winds' next concert will be "An American Portrait," Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium at SMU. Don't miss it.

Everything's Coming Up Roses!

Big Ten Champions
Source: Neil Ament.

Friday, December 2, 2011

OTBR: An Unpaved Forest Road in Finland

Latitude 60.597400° N
Longitude 22.563200° E

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Does a Yellow Light Mean?

It's not a trick question. Stop and think about it before reading further. Unfair Park's Jim Schutze, normally a surprisingly level-headed curmudgeon despite the photo of him that accompanies his blog showing him aiming some kind of rifle vaguely in the direction of the reader, asks that question and answers, no less than four times, that a yellow light means you're supposed to slow down.

After the jump, why you should stay away from Jim Schutze when he's behind the wheel.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Maphead


From "Maphead," by Ken Jennings:

Open quote 

the way modern mapheads discover maps as children is more like the way cavemen must have discovered fire: as a flash of lightning. You see that first map, and your mind is rewired, probably forever. In my case, the Ur-map was a wooden puzzle of the fifty states"

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Point-Counterpoint: Drainage Utility Fee

The agenda for Richardson's Monday night city council meeting contained a public hearing concerning the establishment of a drainage utility fee. (This blog item is being written before that public hearing takes place.)

After the jump, a case for and against this new utility fee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Towards Ever More Transparent Government

Last week, I summarized the legal arguments against the process used by the Richardson City Council to award City Manager Bill Kefler a 2% raise. I found the arguments either weak or outright bizarre. I asked readers to correct my understanding of the arguments or supply a stronger argument, if they were able. One reader, Nathan Morgan, took me up. What followed was a long comment thread (33 comments now). In my opinion, he offered nothing new, only restating arguments I had included (and rejected) in my original summary of the legal arguments against the city.

So, it's time for me to move on. After the jump, the advice I offered on just how to do that. And to start the ball rolling, a suggestion.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hoops: Berkner 62, Allen 48

From 2011 11 Berkner Basketball

With football season over for most high school teams (except those making deep runs in the state playoffs), it's time to turn our attention to basketball. Most teams are already well into their non-district tune-up game schedule. Saturday night, the Berkner Rams defeated the Allen Eagles 62-48 on the Ram's home court. The Rams look to be a threat to repeat as District 9-5A champions, so look up the schedule and come out and cheer on the team.

For more photos from Saturday's game, look here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get a Raise, Get a Grouse

In a Richardson City Council budget work session in August, the proposed budget was reviewed in great detail. It called for 2% merit increases for many of those at the top of their pay plan. In the posted November 7 city council work session agenda, the council said they planned to go into executive session to discuss this item: "Personnel: Evaluation of City Manager." The agenda said they would "reconvene in open session, and take action, if any, on matters discussed in executive session." Sure enough, when they reconvened in open session, the council unanimously moved to award City Manager Bill Keffler a 2% raise.

The usual critics cried foul. Do they have a case? After the jump, let's consider.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day in the Steger Garden (2011)

From Flowers

Give thanks for family and friends. Give thanks for the meal before you and all who labor to grow, prepare and serve the food on our tables every day. Give thanks for the freedom to enjoy this holiday and all who serve to protect our freedom. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Imagine There's No Central

I have a recurring fantasy in which Richardson rips up Central Expressway and replaces it with a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard. It's my fantasy, right? Dream big. Hey, the Richardson City Council only dreams of getting access points to the HOV lanes on Central Expressway through Richardson. Talk about having small dreams.

After the jump, imagine there's no Central.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Abstinence Isn't Enough, Try Asceticism

With the recent death of Andy Rooney, his long-running commentary on "60 Minutes" also comes to an end. If you are of a certain age, you might remember what segment filled the last few minutes of each week's show before Andy took over. It was called Point-Counterpoint.

I was reminded of Point-Counterpoint when browsing my usual news sources today. The subject is sex education in schools. The two commentaries are from Unfair Park's Rob Wilonsky and from my favorite crunchy conservative, The American Conservative's Rod Dreher.

After the jump, two different world views.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Open Meetings Act, Not So Bad After All

I've long had a grudge against the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). Not with the intent behind the act -- open meetings -- but with the unintended consequences of the act. Two clauses of the act, each fine by itself, work together to suppress open discussion.
  • Meeting agendas must be posted 72 hours in advance
  • Public officials may not discuss subjects not on the agenda

After the jump, the harm these rules cause and a possible solution.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coterie "Great Steakout"

From 2011 11 Coterie Steakout

"Coterie" is an organization of Richardson-area friends who get together three times a year for dinner and entertainment. The theme and activity for each occasion varies. The November 2011 Coterie party was a "Great Steakout" dinner party at Hoffbrau Steakhouse in Dallas.

For a slide show of the evening, click here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shooting the OWS Messenger

Today's dialog is about how the conversation about income inequality started by the Occupy Wall Street protest movement has morphed into a conversation about the shortcomings of the protesters themselves. As is often the case, my dialog is prompted by the writings of my favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher, on his blog at The American Conservative.

After the jump, my dialog with Rod Dreher.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Front in Culture War at the SBOE

I was shocked in 2010 when George Clayton defeated Geraldine "Tincy" Miller for the GOP nomination for the District 12 seat on the State Board of Education (SBOE). Clayton was an unknown. Miller was the longtime incumbent. Most attributed his victory to an indiscriminate anti-incumbent attitude by the voters. I personally was lukewarm (lukecool?) to both candidates, but I sided with Miller because at least I knew what I was getting with her. I was concerned with what I was hearing from Clayton.

Since the 2010 election, I have heard little about George Clayton's service on the SBOE. In recent years, I've considered no news to be good news when it comes to the SBOE. Usually the SBOE makes news for pushing Creationism in the science curriculum or Christian revisionism or McCarthyism in the American history curriculum. So, if George Clayton and the SBOE were keeping theirs heads low, they couldn't be doing too much damage, right?

Well, George Clayton has now raised his head, on a surprising matter that is likely to become a factor in his bid for re-election. After the jump, the story by Ross Ramsey in the Texas Tribune.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Wins

And so does Occupy Dallas and Occupy Oakland and all the other spontaneous movements that sprang up across the United States to protest the growing income inequality between the so-called 1% and the 99%. Critics have dismissed the movements, either because protesters are disorganized and lack consensus on what to do about the issue, or because the protesters are becoming a public nuisance. I won't dispute those criticisms. Occupy Wall Street, like almost all spontaneous protest movements, is disorganized (by design) and disorderly (more or less) and destined to disintegrate (probably).

So, why do I say Occupy Wall Street wins? The answer after the jump.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not Quite as Open Mic in Dallas

The Dallas City Council is proposing rule changes for public speakers at council meetings. Dallas proposes moving up the deadline to request time to 5 p.m. the day before the meeting. Also, if you have spoken within the last 30 days, your time will be limited to one minute, instead of three minutes allotted to everyone else.

After the jump, my thoughts about how this is handled in Dallas and Richardson.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

From "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel:

Open quote's all very well planning what you will do in six months, what you will do in a year, but it's no good at all if you don't have a plan for tomorrow."

After the jump, my review.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mighty Ram Band March-a-thon

From 2011 11 Berkner March-a-thon

The Berkner High School Mighty Ram Band entertained the neighborhoods around Berkner Saturday morning during a five mile march-a-thon from the high school to Dartmouth Elementary School and back.

Perhaps you saw or heard the band as it marched through your neighborhood. Or maybe while you were shopping at Lowe's home improvement store (thanks, Lowe's, for inviting the band inside to entertain your customers). In any case, if you didn't get a chance to make a donation to support the band program (believe me, it is a very good cause), please contact one of the adult volunteers in the Berkner Area Band Club. They'll let you know how you can help keep this great tradition alive.

More photos from the 2011 march-a-thon can be viewed here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Playoffs: Berkner 7, Garland 24

From 2011 Football

The Garland Owls beat the Berkner Rams 24-7 Friday night in a bi-district playoff game at Garland's Williams Stadium. The Rams started strong offensively and defensively, jumping to a 7-0 lead. Berkner gave Garland a close game through the first half, but Garland gradually asserted themselves in the second half and put the game away with a 4th down, 4th quarter interception return for a touchdown to make the final score 24-7. The Rams finish the season with a 7-4 record. It's still a great time to be a Ram!

In other bi-district playoff action, the RISD's Lake Highlands lost to Rowlett 53-14.

More photos from all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Tribal Loyalty

Today's dialog is about tribal loyalty ... at Penn State, in politics, and just maybe in Richardson.

My favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher, is from Louisiana and a big LSU football fan. Notice I didn't say football fan. I said LSU football fan. If you're a regular reader of Dreher, it's hard to imagine him as any kind of a sports fan. Instead, think of a Bizarro version of Niles Crane on the old Frasier television show, only one who is Cajun and deeply religious and you'll be closer to the mark, I think. Anyhow, Dreher blogged about the child sexual abuse scandal unfolding at Penn State and the loyalty to the institution shown by those caught up in it and by students who rallied (and rioted) in support of Joe Paterno.

A few days earlier, on another subject altogether, I had commented on Dreher's blog that I thought that sometimes he was himself guilty of what he criticized others for, but was unable to see it in himself. After the jump, how my dialog with Dreher resumed with the Penn State story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rick Perry: "Oops"

That "Oops" was the sound of Rick Perry's already dimming chances at winning the GOP nomination for president flaming out altogether. When explaining how he would cut government, Perry enthusiastically said he would start by eliminating three federal agencies - "Commerce, Education, and the uh ... what's the third one there?" He eventually came up with it - Energy - thirty minutes later. "Oops."

So, besides Perry's cringe-inducing embarrassment, how else did the night go? After the jump, my scorecard.

Petition the Government

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of citizens "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The Obama Administration has taken that 18th century idea and applied 21st century technology to it. From the website:
Welcome to We the People on This tool provides you with a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.
Source: We the People.
After the jump, what our fellow citizens are petitioning the President
about, and my own one-man petition to our local government in

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

City Charters: Can Richardson Learn From Dallas?

Everyone in Richardson seems to be in favor of some kind of charter review. What's not so clear is whether anyone agrees on what changes, if any, are needed.

Richardson is not alone in this introspection. Jim Schutze, in Unfair Park, offers his opinion to Dallasites who think that all the problems of Dallas could be solved if only they got rid of the city manager. Schutze thinks the problems go deeper than any single person.

After the jump, what Richardson can learn from Dallas.

Monday, November 7, 2011

OTBR: An Altar to the Goddess Blesta

Latitude 58.434500° N
Longitude 23.104200° E

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Showdown: Lake Highlands 21, Richardson 14

From 2011 Football

It was just a regular season game, but it had playoff implications. Win and you go on. Lose and your season is over. The Lake Highlands Wildcats squared off with the Richardson Eagles on Friday night in a big RISD matchup. In a close game that was still tied in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats emerged victorious, 21-14. Next week, the Wildcats (5-5) will play Rowlett (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Garland's Homer B. Johnson Stadium in the first round of the playoffs.

In other RISD playoff action, Berkner (7-3) will play Garland (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Garland's Williams Stadium.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished - Parks Edition

Apparently, Richardson residents are soon to know the location of their new park in the Richardson Heights and Cottonwood Heights area. I say apparently because, as far as I know, the city has not yet officially announced a property purchase. But the blogosphere is abuzz. If you believe what you read, a homeowner who sold out to the city, a neighborhood association president who has worked tirelessly for this park, even a city council member, have all said it's a done deal. The properties are purchased. The mini-park is on its way.

Good news, right? You don't know local politics. After the jump, a look at how this good deed is being received.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One World Government By ... The Vatican?

A week or so ago, a think tank within the Vatican published a paper calling for one-world government. Rod Dreher summarizes the argument:
The power of global financial entities has outstripped the power of nation-states to subordinate their activity to the common good, even as the commons cannot be protected from the irresponsibility of these entities. The solution proposed by the Pontifical Council is a form of global political and economic common governance in which nation-states relinquish sovereignty to a significant degree in exchange for gaining a measure of accountability and control over global capital.
Source: Rod Dreher.
The thought of one-world government freaked out (his words) my favorite crunchy conservative.

After the jump, more from Dreher (and Jeffrey Weiss and ... me).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seven Billion and Counting

Sometime in the past few weeks or coming up soon, the planet is expected to welcome its 7 billionth human being. After the jump, two different takes on the milestone.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Un-Tree the Town

You are undoubtedly aware that beginning today, November 1, Richardson has imposed Stage 3 water restrictions, meaning watering lawns is allowed only twice a month on even or odd Saturdays, depending on house address. Richardson has done a good job of getting the word out on this water conservation measure.

What you might not be aware of is a related change to a program that started up with such fanfare just a year ago. After the jump, what's up with all those stressed trees in our roadway medians?

Monday, October 31, 2011

You Need Water to Have a Tea Party

Last week, I offered my opinion on how to vote on the proposed amendments to the Texas constitution. Or, more accurately, I sent you off to read others' recommendations. Opinions on these propositions are proving true the old saw about politics making strange bedfellows.

After the jump, an example.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Clincher: Sunset 8, Berkner 27

From 2011 Football

On the night that the Texas Rangers lost the seventh game of the World Series, the Berkner Rams gave their loyal fans who came out to Wildcat-Ram Stadium plenty to celebrate instead. The Rams beat the Sunset Bisons 27-8 to clinch a playoff spot in District 9-5A. Playoffs, here we come!

Here's the full District 9-5A playoff situation, according to The Dallas Morning News. "Clinched: Skyline, Jesuit, Richardson Berkner; Eliminated: Samuell, Sunset, W.T. White. The winner of Richardson vs. Lake Highlands on Friday clinches a playoff berth."

It was also Junior High Band Night, meaning the largest number of young musicians on the field at any one time any time this year. What a show!

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Go Rangers! Just Go.

Twice, the Rangers were one strike away from a World Series Championship. Once in the 9th, again in the 10th. Two blown saves. A combined five fielding and throwing errors by both teams. More mental errors than space allows to document, even in virtually infinite cyberspace. A football-like 10-9 score. 28 hits. An umpire who contributed to the pin-ball scoring by refusing to give either pitcher, any pitcher, the corner of the plate.

After the jump, the full indictment of a crime against sport.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chasing Squirrels in Richardson

DUG: "My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may talk -- SQUIRREL!!"
Source: Up.
The dog in the movie "Up" may have been fictional, but we all have a little bit of his weakness for easy distraction in us.

The League of Women Voters of Richardson presented an educational program on the question, "Is the current city charter right for Richardson?" You'd hope that it would prompt a productive discussion about what changes, if any, are needed to make Richardson's city charter work better for Richardson's residents in the 21st century. Instead, it's like the city has decided what's really important is ... SQUIRREL!

After the jump, chasing squirrels.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amending the Texas Constitution for the Umpteenth Time

This November 8, Texans will once more go the polls and vote on a slew of proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Proposition 1: Homestead Exemptions for Disabled Veterans' Surviving Spouses

Ballot Language: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran."

That's the first of ten such amendments. I know what you're thinking -- why is a constitutional amendment needed to make a minor tweak to the homestead exemption for property taxes? Don't we elect representatives to make informed decisions for us on such details? The answer is that, historically, Texans so mistrusted government that we enshrined many details of governance in our constitution, thus requiring a vote of all Texans to decide even the most mundane issues. Because of this, not surprisingly, the Texas constitution is a mess. Even the tea party agrees, and you would think that if anyone would be sympathetic to shackling the powers of elected representatives, it would be the tea party.

After the jump, how you should vote.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Excerpts: Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein

From "Moonwalking with Einstein," by Joshua Foer:

Open quote

Once upon a time, there was nothing to do with thoughts except remember them. There was no alphabet to transcribe them in, no paper to set them down upon. Anything that had to be preserved had to be preserved in memory."

After the jump, my review and more excerpts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Hail Huffhines Art Trails

From 2011 10 Huffhines Art Trails

A rare overnight downpour and hailstorm failed to dampen the spirits at the Huffhines Art Trails, even if the weather did noticeably suppress the turnout. As one artist said, the straw used to cover the mud complimented the rustic feel of her booth.

To see more photos, look here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Homecoming Spoiler: Berkner 46, Richardson 21

From 2011 Football

The Berkner Rams spoiled the Richardson Eagles' homecoming celebration Friday night at Eagle-Mustang Stadium. The Rams scored on their first play from scrimmage and never looked back on their way to a 46-21 victory. The win puts the Rams in great position to secure the #3 playoff spot in District 9-5A, behind Skyline and Jesuit.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I Learned from LWV about the City Charter

Wednesday night, the League of Women Voters of Richardson presented a program "Is the City's Current Charter Right for Richardson?" I had low expectations for this program. Maybe I was just in a bad mood because, long after the LWV set its date, the opening game of the World Series, featuring the Texas Rangers, ended up landing on the same night. I naively hoped that when the conflict became known, things would get rescheduled, but Major League Baseball wouldn't budge. It turns out to have been a blessing in disguise, as I was spared having to watch the Rangers lose to the Cardinals (I'm a poor sport when my team is losing.) And, the LWV's program taught me a thing or two about city charters.

After the jump, what I learned from the speakers, former Richardson mayor Ray Noah and Robert Lowry, professor of political science at UT-Dallas.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dealing with "Fat Tail" Risks

In Tuesday's GOP debate in Las Vegas, Michele Bachmann said some crazy things that, if this were an episode of Survivor, would have gotten her voted off the island. Or did she?

After the jump, just how crazy is Michele Bachmann, really?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Impressions of GOP Debate in Las Vegas

Seven GOP candidates went toe-to-toe in one of the most spirited debates yet. My quick scorecard:

  • Romney took some heat on Romneycare, on illegal immigration, and on job creation, but had detailed, bulleted answers ready. He held his own. Because he's leading the polls, that's a win for him.
  • Cain took the most heat for his "bold" 9-9-9 plan. Everyone attacked it. He suffered some wounds but didn't go down. Because he's already in the top tier, that's a limited success for him.
  • Perry was his most energetic yet. Because expectations were so low, he helped himself, but his attacks on Romney were skillfully repelled. Because no one else imploded, there might not be much rebound in the polls for Perry.
  • Santorum was a me-too candidate, trying to distinguish himself by adding something about family in every answer. No one seems to care.
  • Bachmann was a me-too candidate, trying to distinguish herself by emphasizing her position as the farthest out on the right-wing. That's not likely to be the selling point she thinks.
  • Gingrich played the wise old Republican, standing up for Reagan and warning against bickering. Too many other candidates have to implode for Gingrich to get a second look.
  • Paul was his usual consistent self. He'd cut federal departments wholesale; he scolded his fellow candidates for not saying they'd cut defense spending; he said we ought to replace the income tax with "nothing;" he refused to pick between Wall Street and the White House for whom to blame for the financial crisis - he said blame them both and the Fed, too. His followers love him, but he's probably still considered the crazy old uncle in the attic by too many Republicans to have a chance at the nomination.
After the jump, random impressions.

A TreeKIT Grows in Brooklyn

Richardson's "Tree the Town" program has been pretty quiet so far this fall. In fact, it's been pretty quiet ever since its initial burst of tree-plantings last fall. You have to go back to last October to find anything on its official event calendar.

So, after the jump, a recap of other cities' efforts, including a new one (new to me, anyway) in New York City.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Want to Fix School Financing? Sue.

"Please sue us soon." That was the note reportedly passed by one Texas legislator to a school finance lawyer during the last session of the Texas legislature. It was a white flag admitting that the Texas legislature itself wasn't going to fix the bollixed up Texas school finance system. So, it was inevitable that Texas school districts would turn to the courts to do it. This week, the first of several expected lawsuits was filed by 150 mostly low- and moderate-wealth school districts.

The issues, after the jump.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Komen Dallas Race for the Cure - 2011

From 2011 10 Race for the Cure

Saturday morning. Up at 6:00 AM. Out of the house at 7. Hitting the pavement at 8 along with 26,000 others for a 5K run/walk/stroll in the neighborhood around Dallas's NorthPark Center. This can describe nothing other than the "Komen Dallas Race for the Cure," in its 29th year of raising funds for and heightening awareness about breast health as well as celebrating breast cancer survivorship. Last year's event raised over $1.9 million for the cause.

The race coordination was superb, the weather beautiful and the participants in a festive mood. To see photos of all the action, look here.

P.S. Can't wake up that early on a Saturday morning? You can still participate in "Sleep In for the Cure."

DEFENSE! Lake Highlands 13, Berkner 16

From 2011 Football

In the battle for annual naming rights to their shared Wildcat-Ram Stadium, Berkner upset Lake Highlands 16-13 Friday night. Games don't get more exciting than this one. Berkner seemingly had victory in hand when they pushed their lead to 16-6 with a field goal with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game. But Lake Highlands marched 70 yards in less than a minute to cut the lead to 16-13. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, when Berkner couldn't handle the elusive bouncing ball, Lake Highlands recovered and was poised to score again to take the lead and, incredibly, the win.

The Wildcats had a first down at the Berkner 4 yard line. The Ram defense, who had played well all game, saved their best for last. Four times Lake Highlands ran into the Berkner line, the last three downs from inside the one yard line. Four times the Berkner line held. The goal line stand with less than a minute to play in the game gave Berkner the victory, their first in this cross-district rivalry in five years. It was a heart-breaking loss for the Wildcats and a great time to be a Ram!

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Richardson City Charter Program: LWV

The League of Women Voters of Richardson plans to hold a public program to provide information to the public about the City of Richardson's charter. The announcement below is taken from the LWV of Richardson's website. If you have a question you want the panelists to answer at the meeting, email

Richardson City Charter Program

Is the city's current charter right for Richardson?

Charter Program

On Wednesday, October 19, 2011, the League of Women Voters of Richardson will present a program entitled "Is the City's Current Charter Right for Richardson?" in the Richardson Room of the Richardson Civic Center.

A reception celebrating the League's 50th year in Richardson will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Panelists will be:
  • Raymond D. Noah, Presiding Judge, Richardson Municipal Court, Speaking on the background of Home-rule Charter; and
  • Robert C. Lowry, PhD, Professor & Program Head of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas, Speaking on issues that might be considered in a review of the charter.

Printable Flyer

A printable flyer with details of the program can be found here.

DART to Fair Park - An Update

From 2011 10 State Fair

Two years ago, DART opened a short section of the DART Green Line from downtown to Fair Park. Football fans from UT and OU overcrowded the trains for the ride to the Cotton Bowl and the annual Red River Rivalry game. Anger overflowed. DART's image suffered.

Last year, DART added trains and rerouted the Red Line to eliminate the need to change trains downtown. And, likely, many fans, burned once, decided to drive, reducing demand. The result? A better balance of capacity and demand. Less anger. No headlines featuring DART.

This year, DART faced a new challenge. The Green Line has been extended to Carrollton. Would the influx of new passengers again overcrowd the service? DART was ready once again. Riding DART to Fair Park was a non-story. Good for DART.

How is DART handling the State Fair traffic on days other than the day of a big game? After the jump, my experience this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Impressions of GOP Economics Debate

Eight Republicans gathered around a table at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for the seventh GOP presidential candidates' debate. My quick scorecard:
  • Romney won. Hands down.
  • Perry lost. No doubt.
  • Cain might have helped himself by sounding bold but hurt himself by sounding simplistic.
  • No one else distinguished himself or herself to change the dynamics of the race.

After the jump, deeper impressions.

The Fair in Photos

From 2011 10 State Fair

More photos from our day at the 125th State Fair of Texas can be found here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Exemption for Home, Sweet, Home

City, county, and school property tax statements were mailed out to homeowners last week. The only new wrinkle this year is that the City of Richardson's tax statement is now combined with the county's tax statement. Combining the two saves money. Good, smart move.

Combining the two also makes it easier to compare the taxes paid to support city services versus county services. The numbers are right there, side by side. Now, if we could only get more momentum behind movements like Taxpayer Receipt, taxpayers would know even more about how their tax dollars are being spent.

What stood out for me in this year's local tax statement is that the city doesn't give homeowners a homestead exemption. It's hard to avoid that big, fat "0" in the column headed "Homestead Exemption." This shouldn't be news to anyone. The lack of a homestead exemption was always listed on the city's tax statement in the past. It's just more prominent now. I'm curious whether residents will notice and lobby for the city to revisit this policy. Odder things have happened. If so, it'll be another example of the law of unintended consequences.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homecoming: Lake Highlands 37, Sunset 6

From 2011 Football

In perfect weather, with a large home crowd, Lake Highlands celebrated homecoming with a big win over Sunset High School, 37-6.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Big Plans for US75/PGBT. Now, How to Pay.

Last February, the Richardson city council rezoned 300 acres of undeveloped land around the DART station at US75/PGBT as the first step in developing this prime real estate. The rezoning was, to say the least, controversial, at least among a vocal minority of Richardson residents.

That was then. After the jump, an update.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Excerpts: The Island of Lost Maps

The Origins of Political Order

From "The Island of Lost Maps," by Miles Harvey:

Open quote 

At first, Bland had seemed to me an exotic and intriguing figure - but, as is often the case with familiarity, the more I learned about him, the less interesting he became. He was, I ultimately determined, a fairly unexceptional person who had happened to commit a fascinating crime."

After the jump, my review and more excerpts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

OTBR: An Old Barn in Italy

Latitude 45.640600° N
Longitude 12.704900° E

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tick, Tock, the Game is Locked

The late, lamented The Dallas Morning News religion blog has been reduced to a weekly "Texas Faith" posting in which a panel of local religious leaders are asked to comment on a provocative question, such as this week's, "Is it ever right to divorce a spouse with Alzheimers?" Unfortunately, the answers are seldom as provocative as the questions. Something seems to be missing.

Thanks to Unfair Park, we learn that the panel used by the News deliberately excludes a secular viewpoint. Zachary Moore, a coordinator for the DFW Coalition of Reason, has been lobbying the News for months to include a secular viewpoint on the panel, to no effect. Moore says one panelist told him that the other members of the panel voted down the request. Blog moderator Bill McKenzie told Unfair Park, "He's welcome to be a part of the discussion in the comments. I don't think he's being excluded."

After the jump, my thoughts.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Repeat Tweets: Football and Everything Else

Repeat tweets from September, 2011:

  • 2011 09 01 - Final. North Crowley 6, Berkner42. It's a great time to be a Ram! #txhsfb
  • 2011 09 01 - Wisconsin rolls in opener against UNLV, 51-17, in the hottest game in history at 94 year-old Camp Randall Stadium - 90 degrees.
  • 2011 09 02 - Headline: "US marks first month with no troop deaths in Iraq." Our country needs a little good news right about now. This is great news.
  • 2011 09 02 - Final. Irving 14, Richardson 37. #txhsfb
  • 2011 09 03 - Thank you, Baylor, for making that Wisconsin loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl seem like ancient history. TCU, feel free to start a new streak.
  • 2011 09 03 - Crystal ball: Boise State runs thru rest of their easy schedule undefeated, then watches unbeaten OU and SEC winner play for championship.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cottonwood Art Festival

From 2011 10 Cottonwood

Richardson's twice annual Cottonwood Art Festival enjoyed picture perfect weather and large crowds for its weekend run October 1-2. For a look at more photos from this fall's Festival, look here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Skyline 62, Richardson 7

From 2011 Football

Ouch! It was all Skyline, all the time, Friday night at Eagle-Mustang Stadium as the Skyline Raiders, ranked 10th in the state, beat the Richardson Eagles 62-7. The Raiders scored six touchdowns in the first half. The Eagles scored a 4th quarter touchdown to avoid the shutout.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

When Four Stars Are Good Enough

RISD's FAST results

The 2011 update of the Texas Comptroller's Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) was recently released. According to the FAST website, "Each district and campus is assigned a FAST rating of one to five stars, indicating its success in combining cost-effective spending with the achievement of measurable student academic progress. Five stars reflects the strongest relative progress combined with the lowest relative spending."

Some of the nearby school districts that earned five stars are Allen, Coppell, Garland, Irving, Mesquite and Wylie. Congratulations to all of them.

Where did the Richardson ISD land on this rating scale? That little red square at the top of the graph above is the RISD. Scattered around the rest of the graph are 40 fiscal peers. Richardson's position earns it four stars out of five.

After the jump, what the RISD would have to do to improve its ratings next year. And why I'm not sure it's a good idea.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Of Droughts and Trees - Continued

Sunday in Evansville, Indiana, brought with it an otherworldly experience. It was raining when I awoke. It was raining after breakfast. It was raining before and after lunch. It was raining before and after dinner. It was raining when I went to sleep. Steady, continuous, life-giving rain. The locals could not understand why I walked around all day with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, on my drive home, the stretch from Texarkana to Dallas brought a return to Dante's Inferno. The ground was parched. The grass was dry or blackened from fire. The watering holes were shriveled. More trees than I could count were dead or dying, with leaves brown and withered, way too early in the season to be the normal signs of autumn.

Recently, I blogged about the effects of this drought on the trees of Houston, Dallas and Richardson. After the jump, an update.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Erratum: Perry's Debating Skill

By now, it's conventional wisdom that Gov. Rick Perry's debate performances have gone from bad to worse. "Not yet ready for primetime." "A train wreck." "Flubbed" and "stumbled." "Yikes." "Close to a disqualifying two hours." And those were the judgments of conservative pundits.

There were differing explanations for Perry's poor performances, everything from chronic back pain to chronic dimwittedness. My own theory was that Perry was having a difficult time trying to walk back some of his more outrageous statements from the first days of his campaign (e.g., Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie"). I said he was trying to sound reasonable, which could be a stretch for him.

I don't think my explanation stands up to scrutiny. Perry may have backpedaled from his Social Security comments, but he doubled down on some of his other controversial actions (e.g., HPV vaccinations, Texas DREAM act). He didn't help himself with GOP primary voters either way.

After the jump, my new, new theory for Perry's debate performances.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grim Reaper a Packers Fan?

Green Bay billboard

You decide how well this billboard will go over in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Installation of a censored version is planned near Lambeau Field. (The censored version removes the cheesehead after threat of a trademark infringement lawsuit from the manufacturer of foam cheeseheads).

Remember, this is the state where a popular suggestion for a license plate slogan was "Eat Cheese or Die" (which, sadly, was rejected by the then governor).

Happy 90th Birthday!

From 2011 09 Evansville

To celebrate Walt's 90th birthday, he, Ellen and I drove back to Evansville, Indiana to celebrate the occasion with old friends. On the way, we stopped in Paducah, Kentucky, to pay respects at the Denning family graves. We also visited Ruth's resting place in Evansville. It was a weekend with moments of sad remembrance and moments of joyful celebration. All in all, a trip to treasure.

For all photos, look here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Richardson Library Shifts Into OverDrive

The Richardson Public Library is one of the gems of the city's services to residents. For about a year now, it's offered eBook lending, but didn't support the Amazon Kindle device. That wasn't the RPL's fault. Amazon has been slow to open the Kindle up for such services. OverDrive, the service the RPL uses to manage eBook downloads, offered support for the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader and various cell phones and the Apple iPad and PCs, but the obvious hole in their support was the missing Kindle.

This week, all that changed. OverDrive announced support for the Kindle.

After the jump, what this means for the Richardson Public Library ... and me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Richardson's Top Forty

Not musical hits. Things to do.
The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you.
Source: Brenda Ueland
The Richardson City Council caters their meals at their work sessions, so they already have the first two of those recommendations covered. As for getting somebody to love them, politicians might as well get a dog. The electorate may vote you into office, but they'll never love you.

So, instead of following Brenda Ueland's advice quoted above, the Richardson City Council came up with their own list of the most important things to do in the world. They burdened themselves with forty.

After the jump, the top forty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Netflix, Qwikster and the Dumpster

RT @FakeAPStylebook: "The past tense of 'Netflix' is 'Netflucked.'"

33 1/3 LP vinyl records. 45 RPM singles. Cassette tapes. CDs. VHS tapes. DVDs. Blu-ray Discs. Except for the very last one, I made my way through each of the earlier generations of physical media for music and movies. Until now.

After the jump, how Netflix's latest move marks a milestone in the entertainment delivery industry, a milestone like none of the ones that went before.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Must See Television According to My DVR

Big week for television. The Emmys were handed out Sunday. The new television season debuts this week. It's time to check that the DVR season passes are up to date.

After the jump, a comparison of what Hollywood thinks I should be watching with what my DVR is actually capturing for me to watch.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Richardson Working on the Right Problems?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Joseph Heller's classic novel "Catch 22." In it, there's an unforgettable scene in which the protagonist, Yossarian, a bombardier in World War II, treats his fellow crew member Snowden's leg wound during an aerial bombing mission:
Next he began binding the compress in place with a roll of gauze. The second time around Snowden's thigh with the bandage, he spotted the small hole on the inside through which the piece of flak had entered, a round, crinkled wound the size of a quarter with blue edges and a black core where the blood had crusted. Yossarian sprinkled this one with sulfanilimide too and continued unwinding the gauze around Snowden's leg until the compress was secure. Then he snipped off the roll with the scissors and slit the end down the center. It was a good bandage, he knew, and he sat back on his heels with pride, wiping the perspiration from his brow, and grinned at Snowden with spontaneous friendliness.

'I'm cold,' Snowden moaned. 'I'm cold.'

'You're going to be all right, kid,' Yossarian assured him, patting his arm comfortingly. 'Everything's under control.'
Source: Catch 22.
I won't print the spoiler here, even for a 50 year old book, but you don't have to be a fan of "Catch 22" to guess that everything is not under control. Everything is not going to be all right. Yossarian, in fact, has been working on the wrong problem all along.

After the jump, why the Richardson city council's goal setting exercise reminded me of Yossarian's first aid.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Excerpts: The Origins of Political Order

The Origins of Political Order
From "The Origins of Political Order," by Francis Fukuyama:

Open quote 
Thomas Hobbes lays out the basic 'deal' underlying the state: in return for giving up the right to do whatever one pleases, the state (or Leviathan) through its monopoly of force guarantees each citizen basic security."

After the jump, my review and more excerpts.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

About that Page 99 in the CAFR

As expected, the Richardson City Council approved by a 7-0 vote a 2011-2012 budget that technically is a smidgen in the red for the year, but is cyclically balanced in that it uses excess reserve funds from last year to cover the deficit.

Still, there are some who point to the 2010 CAFR, especially page 99, as the smoking gun evidence of chronic deficit spending in Richardson.

After the jump, a look at the infamous page 99 (and page 100).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Of Droughts and Trees

Richardson's "Tree the Town" project has a goal of planting 50,000 trees. "Tree North Texas" has a goal of planting 3,000,000 trees. The current drought being experienced across Texas shouldn't change those ambitions, but it does require some adaptation.

After the jump, some thoughts by the arborist for the City of Dallas, Phil Erwin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tea Party Forum or Bar Room Brawl

For the most part, the questions asked of GOP presidential candidates at the CNN/Tea Party debate were standard, predictable fare. How to balance the budget? How to get the economy growing again? How to reduce the cost of health care? A few questions were on subjects near and dear to the Tea Party. Should the Federal Reserve be audited? Do you support the Fair Tax? Very few of the questions required the candidates to do anything but repeat well-rehearsed lines from their stump speech. So much for the value of letting audience members ask the questions.

Still the debate was entertaining and informative because of the interaction among the candidates. The grilling came from the attacks the candidates made on each other. The alternate cheers and boos from the audience added to the bar room brawl atmosphere.

After the jump, my favorite questions and answers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Critical Modifier: Cyclically Balanced

Recently, I blogged about Richardson's proposed 2011-2012 budget and declared it not to be in balance. That is, expenditures exceeded revenues. The difference was covered by excess balances in reserve funds. Nothing wrong with doing that, I also declared.

Others were not satisfied. After the jump, new developments.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Late Summer in the Steger Garden (2011)

From Flowers
A quiet moment in the garden on 9/11/2011, remembering the events of ten years ago.

After the jump, another photo.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Southlake Carroll 20, Berkner 10

From 2011 Football

The Berkner Rams lost to perennial power Southlake Carroll 20-10 Friday night at Ram-Wildcat Stadium. The Rams held their own through much of the game, taking a 10-7 lead in the first half and holding the potent Carroll offense to just 3 points in the second half. But the Rams couldn't crack the Dragon defense. Still, it's a great time to be a Ram!

More photos from this game and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.